Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
"I am the weakest [of your knight], I know, and the dullest-minded,
So my death would be the least loss, if truth should be told;
Only because you are my uncle am I to be praised,
No virtue I know in myself but your blood."
(354 - 357)
The idea that a person’s virtue might reside in their blood was a medieval one that justified systems of familial succession. It’s unclear if the modesty Gawain displays throughout the poem - calling himself the "least" of Arthur’s knights when he’s known as the best - is a false one or just another part of his virtue.
"See, Gawain, that you carry out your promise exactly,
And search for me truly, sir, until I am found,
As you have sworn in the hall in the hearing of these knights."
(448 - 450)
The Green Knight reminds Gawain of his knightly duty to keep his promise. The fact that Gawain has sworn to do this in the hearing of all the other knights means that his reputation will be damaged if he fails to carry it out - it’s a matter of knightly honor.
Therefore [the pentangle] suits this knight and his shining arms,
For always faithful in five ways, and five times in each case,
Gawain was reputed as virtuous, like refined gold,
Devoid of all vice, and with all courtly virtues
(631 - 635)
The pentangle Gawain has painted on the front of his shield represents his characteristics in five areas, as the following lines go on to detail: the perfection of his five senses, the dexterity of his five fingers, his devotion to the five wounds of Christ, his focus on the five joys Mary had in Christ, and his devotion to five virtues.